Trigger warning for sexual assault and domestic violence.
Last Thursday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley let the sexual-assault and domestic-violence survivors of her state know that there aren’t enough of them to warrant a line item in the state budget–but that she’s super sorry about it and extends her “sympathy and encouragement.”
Her package of 81 vetoes from the 2012-2013 state budget included $1.5 million in earmarks for the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Among those public health-related vetoes was nearly half a million dollars for the SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVAS), which (along with the other blocked earmarks) represents “only a small portion” of the affected population.
Veto 51: The SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, $453,680.
I am vetoing each of the earmarks in Section 90 of the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s budget. Each of these lines attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused. Overall, these special add-on lines distract from the agency’s broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health. Each new special interest that wins an earmark takes more of DHEC’s attention away from its overall mission.
Just a small portion.
A recent government survey of rape and domestic violence reveals that in the U.S., one in five women say they’ve been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, one in four say they’ve been beaten by an intimate partner, and one in six say they’ve been stalked.
In South Carolina, SCCADVASA reports that just in 2010, more than 5,000 victims of sexual assault–28.5 percent of whom were under the age of 11–received services from their centers, and nearly 1,500 cases of forcible rape were reported to law enforcement. In 2009, they report, 31 women were murdered as a result of domestic violence. And this is only looking at individuals who reported their assault and sought help from the Coalition; not factored in are women who went to other organizations or didn’t report their assaults to the police. (It’s estimated that as many as 54 percent of rapes go unreported nationally; I’m sure that number is smaller in South Carolina, which is obviously more sympathetic and encouraging.)
And since 1982, South Carolina’s sexual assault has been higher than the national average. So that “small portion” would be somewhere north of one in five South Carolinian women.
A vast majority of women who said they had been victims of sexual violence, rape or stalking reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as did about one-third of the men.
Women who had experienced such violence were also more likely to report having asthma, diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome than women who had not. Both men and women who had been assaulted were more likely to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, limitations on activity, and poor physical and mental health.
“We’ve seen this association with chronic health conditions in smaller studies before,” said LIsa James, director of health for Futures Without Violence, a national nonprofit group based in San Francisco that advocates for programs to end violence against women and girls.
“People who grow up with violence adopt coping strategies that can lead to poor health outcomes,” she says. “We know that women in abusive relationships are at increased risk for smoking, for example.”
But to Nikki Haley, that doesn’t constitute a public-health crisis worthy of funding–just a distraction.